Shai Alleson Gerberg, Burnt by the Sun: The Ḥayon Controversy, Voices from Italy 

The Sabbatian kabbalist Neḥemiah Ḥayon’s introduction to his controversial book ‘Oz le-’Elohim, constitutes an audacious intellectual manifesto regarding the limits of esoteric knowledge and methods of its transmission. The paper argues that Ḥayon’s guiding principle in the dissemination of esoteric knowledge has ceased to be membership in the scholarly elite, intellectual brilliance or religious devotion; rather it is established on the basis of commercial considerations of the print market. The paper further discusses the far-reaching implications of Ḥayon’s stand, and the reactions to it of Italian rabbis, especially Joseph Ergas of Livorno and Joseph Fiametta of Ancona.

Shai Alleson Gerberg is a PhD candidate in the History Department at Johns Hopkins University. He was a fellow in the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School for Advanced Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a member in the ERC research group on the theology of Jewish conversion.


Jacob BarnaiItaly as a Transit Land for Sabbateanism 

Italy is geographically located as a transit land between the European countries and the countries on the shores of the Aegean and Mediterranean seas. For the Jewish Diaspora, dispersed in many countries, Italy was the perfect transit country for people, commerce, books and idea. For Sabbateanism, which started in the Ottoman Empire and spread all over the Jewish Diaspora, Italy was a center of Sabbatean network, both during Sabbatai Zvi’s messianic period (1665-1666) and also after his conversion (1666) and his death (1676), including the Eighteenth century.  Sabbatians and their opponents from the Balkan, East and Norther Europe and from the Moslem countries, in the Ottoman Empire and North Africa brought Sabbatean ideas and Sabbatean substance to and from Italy and they spread to other. In my lecture I will bring some examples of such transit information. First I will portray briefly some of the academic works on Sabbateanism and of Italy’s place in this subject. The earliest information on Sabbati Zvi reached Italy on September-October 1665 from Egyptian letters and from Italy they widespread to Northern Europe. When Nathan from Gaza arrived in Smyrna from Palestine following Sabbatai Zvi, Livorno and Venice sent a delegation to figure out  was what going on and to inspect his personality. The delegation included Rabi Moshe Pinero of a Prtuguese Maranos family who was Sabbatia Zvi’s youth friend in Smyrna. An important episode in Sabbatean history was Nathans’s visit to Italy on 1668. After Sabbatai Zvi’s death some of Nathan’s follower from the Balkan and Eastern Europe came to Italy and distributed Sabbatean ideas. Rabi Yaakov Sasportas one of the greatest opponents to Sabbateanism left us a book with original documents on Sabbatai Zvi. Abraham Michael Cardoso, a Sabbatean theolog who wandered among many Jewish communities   was at that period in Italy. Rabi Abraham Rovigo from Modena condacted the relations between the Sabbateans in many countries, a kind of a ‘Sabbtean network’ for transfer of secret information. An important example of Italy being a transit is the history of the book Hemdat Yamim (‘Delight of  Days) printed in Smyrna 1731-2 and in Istanbul 1735 and contains many Sbabbatean elements, arrived in Italy and was published in two full additions (and many partly editions) that made it a bestseller throughout the Jewish Diaspora in the Eighteenth-Nineteenth centuries, causing a fierce dispute over its content. Rabi Moshe Haim Lucato  (Ramh”al) was one of the most important figures in Sabbtean context – his personality and his writings aroused many controverseas and a great eco in many places during the Eighteenth century.

Jacob Barnai is a Professor (Emeritus) of Jewish History at the University of Haifa,  Israel. His main fields of research are: the Jews in the Ottoman Empire; the Sabbatean Movement and Jewish historiography. Among his books are: Sabbateanism-Social Perspectives (Shazar Center, Jerusalem, 2000) and (ed. by), Two Literature Works on Sabbatai Zevi (Carmel Press, Jerusalem, forthcoming).


Bernard Dov Cooperman, Reactions to Nehemiah Hiya Hayon in Livorno and Pisa

On June 10, 1714 the mahamadof the Jewish community in Pisa met at the request of their young Hakham,Raphael Meldola, to ban the “heretical” works of Nehemia Hiya Hayon, to forbid anyone from having the books, discussing them, or having any contact with Hayon himself. The ban was duly announced in the synagogue the next day. This decision is a quite unusual one in the records of Pisa’s relatively small Jewish community. The theological content of books was, to my knowledge, never before brought up in the mahamad’s discussions. Normativity of Jewish observance, was almost never dictated; when an issue arose amid the mahamad’smore quotidian concerns, it was carefully negotiated. Halakhic rulings were actually cancelled on the grounds that the community would not tolerate them. A communal effort to control beliefs, ideas, or doctrines was unprecedented. Meldola almost certainly raised the issue of Hayon’s books at the instigation of his friend, Rabbi Joseph Ergas. The two young men had studied together as boys in Livorno and they continued to collaborate closely when Meldola took the job as Hakhamof Pisa. Now Ergas had become a leader in the anti-Hayon effort. But Ergas was a dedicated kabbalist who came from a Sabbatean family and had himself studied with Sabbatean teachers. His opposition to Hayon seems now to have arisen largely from a fear that the latter’s “false” interpretations of Lurianic teaching would dissuade people from “true” kabbalah. What were the concerns of Meldola, who gives no evidence of a mystical bent or concern with theological matters? The struggle over Sabbateanism, as is well known, continued long after the original messianic enthusiasms had been quashed and its fires banked by the supposed redeemer’s apostasy. In the eighteenth century what we have is rather a relentless “pursuit of heresy” led especially by individual rabbis who were—and this is not irrelevant—themselves without official communal positions. Their effort, I would argue, is less about messianism than an ongoing effort to solidify rabbinic authority per se—to create, in other words, an “orthodoxy” in which rabbis determined the boundaries of behavior and belief.  The conservative impact of print and the institutionalization of rabbinic education had both contributed to increased standardization of Jewish knowledge and practice in parallel to what has been termed “confessionalization” for the Christian context. But such claims to rabbinic authority in the abstract played out in a day-to-day world where rabbis’ status was ever more dependent on the very real power of lay communal leadership. The ongoing effort to define normativity was, it seems to me, part of an underlying effort to insist on the independent authority of rabbis to define the Jewish cultural tradition. Hayon’s books had been met, at least at first, with considerable rabbinic enthusiasm. Now lay authorities were being co-opted to label them as heretical. The effort in Pisa is a microcosm of a much larger cultural struggle for control over Jewish tradition.

Bernard Cooperman holds the Louis L. Kaplan Chair in Jewish History at the University of Maryland. His research focuses on the history of Jews in Early Modern Italy. Recent papers include studies of ghettoization and the Jewish reaction to it, of the development of rabbinic culture in the western Sephardic diaspora, and of the development of Jewish historiography from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries.


Cristiana Facchini, Interpreting ‘Religious Enthusiasm’: A Comparative Approach to Charismatic Religions in the Early Modern Period 

The paper shall focus on the analysis of cross-cultural religious phenomena that were defined by the negative notion of ‘religious enthusiasm’. Although the term itself was used to specifically describe the practices of a number of Christian groups, and appeared more frequently in certain cultural contexts, such as England and German territories, religious enthusiasm was, indeed, a key feature of the early modern period, and crossed all possible religious divides. In doing so, the paper wishes to include Sabbateanism and try to offer an interpretation of charismatic religious movements, paying tribute sociology and psychology of religion, elaborating on both on the notions of ‘charismatic body’ and ‘religious experience’. The focus will be oriented to bodily practices, and the special ritual setting that enhance them, which may include physical exercises such as meditation, intense study, praying and violent rituals. It will also explore how the religious experience relates to space and how it selects or imagine special spaces or places in order to successfully perform. In doing so the author hopes to explore the relationship between mysticism and body possession against the backdrop of shifting notions of nature and science. 

Cristiana Facchini is Associate Professor at the Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna and Fellow at the Max Weber Center for AdvancedCultural and Social Studies of the University of Erfurt (Germany). Her field of research include history of Judaism and Christianity in the early modern and modern period.


Matt Goldish, The Prophetic Network of Rabbi Abraham Rovigo 

The decades from the death of Shabbatai Zvi (1626-1676) until the rise of Jacob Frank (1726-1791) mark a sort of middle period in the Sabbatean movement. That period began with a crisis for the believers as they struggled to comprehend the meaning of the messiah’s demise. All stages of the Sabbatean movement were bound up with prophecy and it was indeed to prophecy that the believers turned for guidance during this juncture. The home of Rabbi Abraham Rovigo (ca. 1650-1713) in Modena, Italy was probably the most active center in the ramified Sabbatean network for producing prophecies about the status of redemption and for disseminating Sabbatean ideas. In this talk we will look at the overlapping circles of Sabbatean prophets and fellow travelers in Rovigo’s orbit, how his home tied them together geographically and temporally, and what the impact was of the various prophets who operated out of his home. While Rovigo’s circle was once a very active topic for research, the increasing emphasis on radical aspects of the Sabbatean movement in recent years has place Rovigo on the sidelines.

Matt Goldish is Samuel and Esther Melton Chair in History at The Ohio State University. He has written about Jewish-Christian intellectual relations in the early modern period, Jewish messianism, and the Sephardic diaspora after 1492.


Moshe IdelThe Visit of R. Nathan of Gaza to Italy

The paper will deal with two main type of relationship between Italy and Sabbateanism. A minor one: the reception of Sabatai Tzevi in Italy in Renaissancian terms of the genius as Sabbatai means Saturn. The other topics will be Nathan of Gaza’s visit in Italy, Venice and then Rome, and his attempt to destroy the Vatican by means of magical practices. This is a different approach in Jewish Messianism,  in comparison to the aims of encounters of two other Messianic figures beforehand: Abraham Abulafia and Shelomo Molkho.

Moshe Idel is Professor Emeritus at the, Department of Jewish Thought, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and Senior Researcher at the Shalom Hartman Institute, and Matanel Professor of Kabbalah at Safed Academic College.


Rachele Jesurum, Binyamin ben El’azar Coen Vitale di Reggio (1651-1730)

The paper shall discuss the Italian author and Rabbi, born in Alessandria, who was active between the Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries, Binyamin ben El’azar Coen Vitale di Reggio (1651-1730). Gershom Scholem recognized him, alongside Abraham Rovigo, as one of the most important figures of Italian Sabbateanism, a notion which was then reiterated by Meir Benayahu who, amongst others, supports this theory in various publications. He is basing his research on crucial sources such as some of Coen’s personal notes as well as other writings by Rovigo that document the times the Sabbatean scholars would visit Italy and would stay in the homes of said Rabbis, in Reggio Emilia and in Modena respectively. Analyzing the literary work of this author one cannot help but find a recurrent use of Kabalistic motifs. A particularly significant example of this is his poem from עתהזמיר(‘Il Tempo del Canto/ A Time for Song’),a collection of Kabalisticpiyyutim written for each day of the week and for the holiestJewish holidays.The first edition of ‘Il Tempo del Canto’ was printed in 1707 by the Stamperia Bragadina in Venice. It was then incorporated in a bigger collection of hymns (innario) Ayyelet ha-šaḥar printed again in 1724 (the original edition came out in 1612) when the Šomerim la-boqer confraternity in Mantova was reconstituted and where the text was habitually used. It was then republished in 1753, once again with the Mantova’s community in mind, where it was recited after the Ašmoret ha-boner di Berekyah Modena. Also, through the study of Binyamin Coen and his work, it becomes essential to address the further possible connections between the different devotional confraternities that blossomed around the Italian ghettos since the late 1500s and the Sabbatean movement. 

Rachele Jesurum is a PhD candidate at the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations orientales, Paris, in co-tutorship with the University of Bologna. She is working on the development of the Sabbatean movement in Italy in the XVII-XVIII centuries through the figure of Benjamin ben Eliezer Ha-Kohen Vitale of Reggio (1651-1730).


Noam Lefler, The Italian Theological Laboratory

After the death of Shabtai Svi at Yum Kippur 1677, a war of succession had begun. In Izmir, Abraham Michael Cardozo and Shmuel Primo were the first to quarrel openly, and soon enough two distinct parties had emerged. For the first time, Sabbatean believers were advised not to read or hear the other party doctrine. Meanwhile, in Modena, Italy, Abraham Revigo hosted in his court all sorts of guests: ordinary travelers, converted Sabbateans, prophets, traditional kabbalists and even a candidate to inherit the title of Messiah Ben David. But, Even though disputes could be found in Revigo’s court, still it was a place where one could hear various ideas and points of view. The death of Nathan of Gaza in 1680 deepened the confusion of the Sabbatean believers and  subsequently, the schism between different parties got wider. Three years later, In Salonica 1683, as a dead end sign for the hope of reunification under one accepted leadership, two hundred Sabbatean families converted to Islam under the leadership of Josef Philosoph and Solomon Florentine while many others that refused to do so fled to Italy in General and Modena in particular. The paper shall focus on the Sabbatean war of succession that took place between the years of 1677 and 1683. Its method is to discover the Theo-political aspects of texts, alliances, and actions that happened in the most important Sabbatean communities during that period. Naturally, Modena is quite central to this inquiry, mainly because the unique atmosphere of liberalism  that it represented. The author shall present this aspect of the Italian Sabbateanism and is going to stress its importance as a mediator to the next level of the Sabbatean theology.

Noam Lefler is a PhD candicate in Divinity, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 


Joseph Levi, Science, Rationalism, Kabbalah, and Sabbateanism in Jewish Intellectual History (Early 17th to mid18th Centuries) 

Late Renaissance and Early Modern Jewish intellectual history can be perceived as an ongoing tension between modern humanist sceptical and scientific values vs. mystical kabbalistic theologies and apocalyptic attitudes. These contrasting but sometimes complementary tendencies characterize Jewish intellectual thought of late Renaissance through Sixteenth, Seventeenth and early Eighteenth thought. It had both philosophical and social implications dividing and creating social alliances in both rabbinic and intellectual leadership. In the context of the present seminar meeting we will exemplify the complexity of those tendencies by focusing our attention on three figures who operated in an Italian context and the polemics around their teachings and religious activities: Joseph Shlomo Delmedigo, Nehemiah Hayun and Moshe Chayim Luzzatto (RaMHaL). The first one was a pupil of Galileo and a forerunner of modern scientific knowledge and concepts in the Jewish world, who, as a pupil of Galileo, tried to create a first Jewish scientific academy. He was severely criticized for his modern scientific worldview by popular mystical and kabbalist milieu and had to present himself as a supporter of kabbalist teaching, as he did in his pamphlet Mazref La Chochma (1930) where he presents a pro kabbalistic and mystical teachings supporter in order to please his potential public. His scientific curiosity and the polemics on his modern teachings made of him a travelling intellectual through Jewish intellectual centres of his time: Venice, Kracow, Constantinaples Frankfurt and Amsterdam among them. The second figure Nehemia Hayoun, a possible hidden Shabbataian presents his radical messianic and millenarian positions in a traditional garb and provokes a great pro a con polemics within the Jewish rabbinical leadership itself. The large quantity of letters for and against his activities and teachings testifies a great tension and crisis within the Jewish leadership of the time concerning shabbatean kabbalistic teachings. The attitude towards him provoked a great polemic among rabbinic and intellectual figures of his time. Most of the documents and letters related to his teachings and travels were published and evaluated by Scholem, Giuseppe Levi, Friedman and others. They testify on the Italian arena a great complexity of positions towards messianic and kabbalist teachings among Italian leadership after Shabbetai Zvi conversion, paving the way for the next important polemic among rabbinical Italian leadership concerning Ranhal’s teachings. The dynamic of accepting vs. denying Hayun’s teachings as testified in the letters described by Scholem, Levi, Friedamn and others will be briefly discussed and exposed. The polemic around third figure’s teachings testifies in our view the intense intellectual crisis of Italian and non Italian rabbinic leadership and its shift from a common positive attitudes and use of kabbalist teachings in Italian Jewry during the Seventeenth century towards a more modern rationalists and yet traditionalists positions during early and late Eighteenth century. The polemics on Moshe Hayyim Luzzatto (Ramhal) teachings and the international alliance created within the Jewish leadership of the time testifies the shift within the Jewish intellectual leadership from kabbalist messianic teachings towards a rationalist illuminist worldview, of which in a paradoxical way both Ramhal and J,S, Delmedigo continued to be  conceived as its forerunners, the one as a forerunner of modern illuminist literature and the other still as a forerunner of modern scientific Copernican worldview. Through exposition of the rich historical material we have concerning the polemics within the Jewish leadership regarding those three figures teachings and social activities help us better understand the tension between rationalism and mysticism in Jewish intellectual history of early modern period, from Late Renaissance to early illuminist period.

Joseph Levi held, among other positions, a lecturship in  Jewish Thought at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Between 1996 to 2017 he was the Chief Rabbi of  the Jewish Community of Florence. Today he is head of the Shema’ Florence School for Jewish Studies and Culture.


Brandon Marriott, Fake News in the First Newspapers: The Portrayal of Christian Millenarianism and Jewish Messianism in Seventeenth-Century Italy 

With the recent focus on the term ‘fake news’, this paper seeks to place this concept in its historical context by examining the preponderance of fake news in some of the earliest newspapers. In particular, this paper will discuss the fake news found in seventeenth-century Italian avvisi about the Jewish Sabbatian movement in the Ottoman Empire as well as the Fifth Monarchist movement and Quaker messiah James Nayler in England. Overall, it will ask three main questions: 1, How was fake news intertwined with real stories about these movements? 2, How were the sources of both fake and real news presented in the avvisi? 3, How was Christian millenarianism from England portrayed in Italy compared to Jewish messianism from the Ottoman Empire? This paper will end with a bit of theoretical self-reflection by discussing the possible pitfalls of anachronistically looking at the early-modern world through a twenty-first century lens. 

Brandon Marriott published a revised version of his doctoral thesis as his first historical monograph (Transnational Networks and Cross-Religious Exchange in the Seventeenth-Century Mediterranean and Atlantic World). He has since taught undergraduate courses in Middle Eastern and Global History. He is currently a short-term Scholar-in-Residence at the Newberry Library in Chicago where he is writing a history of Gog and Magog.


Nourit Melcer Padon, Catching One’s Devi­l: Dan Tsalka’s Version ofthe Joseph de la Reyna Story

The story of Yossef de la Reyna, a late Fifteenth century practical cabbalist, has received many adaptations, in poems, plays and novels. A modern-day literary treatment, imbued with Sabbatean touches, can be found in Dan Tsalka’s novella ‘The tale of the unfortunate Yossef de la Reyna’. While Tsalka adheres to previous versions in his plot line, he introduces an added dimension, namely the gradual advent of modernity against which the protagonist’s efforts are depicted. Set in the era of Columbus’ discovery of the New World, and of the rise of new technologies enhancing man’s capabilities, the story shows that age-old legends and passions are far from losing their mesmerising powers. Confronted with change, Tsalka’s de la Reyna is nonetheless convinced that ancient mystical tools are still adequate to bring about salvation.  Tsalka (1936-2005), a leading proponent of modernism in Hebrew literature, focuses on the protagonist’s indefatigable efforts to catch the devil in order to rid the world of evil and on his sad end. His story becomes a commentary on the ever-present danger of the underlying messianic streak in Judaism, spanning across many historical periods.  Tsalka’s de la Reyna succeeds in capturing Samael and nearly obliterates him. Yet, at the very last moment, he unwittingly provides Samael with the means to escape his control. De la Reyna’s momentary lapse is hardly surprising, since author and readers alike know that Evil still exists in the world. Nonetheless, the explanation to de la Reyna’s ultimate failure is presented by Tsalka as man’s tragic flaw: the incapacity to overcome one’s hubris. In addition, the dangers of messianism are not over, since the story closes with a reincarnation of Sabbatai Zvi, this time manifested as a Turkish Muslim.

Nourit Melcer Padon is Senior lecturer and Chair of the English department at Hadassah College, Jerusalem. Her interests include comparative literature and literary criticism, especially the interconnection of fiction and history. She is engaged in continuing research of the social and financial history of the Sephardi community of Seventeenth century Livorno.


Massimo MorettiHeadwear and Identity in the Iconography of Sabbetai Zevi and Nathan of Gaza

In the figurative language of the modern age the image attributed to oneself or to others in an artistic representation is strictly related to the matter of identity. Considering the different ancient types of headwear in the artworks, the paper aims to briefly examine some purposeful designations of social and religious identities, especially in the context of Christian representations of Jews. The attempt is to show the existence of a representative code that allows to recognise precisely the identity designations within an artwork, in a certain space and in a certain time. In the second part, through a series of comparisons, this interpretative code will be applied to few surviving pictures of Sabbatai Sevi and Nathan of Gaza. In order to verify the use done and the function of these pictures at the time of the self-styled messiah, it will be distinguished the real portraits from the imaginative ones.

Massimo Moretti is Assistant professor of Art History of the modern age and of Iconography and Iconology at Sapienza – University of Rome. His research is focused on the culture of the Counter-Reformation, studying the artwork not only as a representation of the dominant culture but also of the otherness and minorities as well as Muslims and Jews.


Elad Schlesinger, Esoterism and the Book Hemdat Yamim: Rabbi Haim Yosef David Azulai and Sabbatean-Lurianic Practices in EighteenthCentury Livorno 

The publishing of Hemdat Yamim in 1731 has generated a major shift in the Jewish world of Southern Europe regarding mediation, distribution and popularization of Lurianic practice and conduct. The influence of the book – especially in Italy and in the Ottoman Empire – was unprecedented. It was soon after the book’s appearance that questions of Sabbateanism of the text were raised, and they continue to be discussed in research to this day. However, these questions were examined mainly by tracing residues of the Sabbatean faith in the text, while many issues related to ritual practices and to halakhah – and their connections to  Sabbatean circles – were quite overlooked. As known, many of the Sabbatean circles, certainly in the later stages of the movement, were characterized by developing and preforming detailed Kabbalistic practices. The Sabbatean circles in Italy in the late seventeenth- and the early eighteenth-century were definitely characterized by such detailed Kabbalistic – pietistic lifestyle. The focus of my paper is the large project of Rabbi Haim Yosef David Azulai – HIDA (1724, Jerusalem – 1806, Livorno) of shaping, classifying and organizing the Lurianic practice. In this framework, HIDA deals with the disorderly arena of the Lurianic practice and tries to regulate it and to create within it a unified, clear and standard system. I wish to show that in this context – and in contrary to a common perception among previous researchers – HIDA deeply opposed some of the most basic features of Hemdat Yamim. This refers mainly to mediation and free processing of Lurianic practices, and to popularization of esoteric practices and Kavanot  (prayer meditations). Especially problematic, in his eyes, were some specific practices, originated in the Hanhagot of Nathan of Gaza and his circle. Moreover, since HIDA settled in Livorno in 1778, he did not continue to learn Hemdat Yamim as he did in the previous years. I suggest that some applications of Lurianic practices, originated in Hemdat Yamim – as they were applied in the Jewish community of Livorno and its surroundings, and that have to do with Sabbatean conduct and practice in the time of HIDA and before – troubled him deeply. This issue is also closely related to the larger question of HIDA‘s general approach to Sabbateanism, and to a certain change that I would like to suggest regarding HIDA‘s main concerns about this movement, one hundred years and more after Sabbatai Zevi’s conversion and death, as the Sabbatean faith was losing more and more of its strength or relevance. I hope that I will shed light on some important points regarding practical aspects of the Sabbatean movement, and on the public role of Hemdat Yamim in Italy in this context.

Elad Schlesinger is a PhD candidate at Ben Gurion University of the Negev. He has worked on Lurianic practices and on the ways in which Rabbi Haim Yossef David Azulai – the HIDA– shaped this normative system. Currently he is researching early modern Jewish legal writings, focusing on the connections between law, interpretation and communal institutions in the 16th and 17th centuries Central and Eastern Europe.


David Sclar, The RaMHaL Controversy Revisited

Over a period of several years, the news that Moses Hayim Luzzatto reputedly had access to a magid (as well as similarly informative angels and souls) elicited various reactions in and out of Italy, including enthusiasm, denunciation, and ambivalence. Fellow kabbalists in Padua, a core group that had studied Kabbalah with Luzzatto since the early 1720s, saw it as heavenly confirmation of their collective mission to initiate the cosmic redemption. As scions of the ghetto’s socio-economic elite, Luzzatto and company received sufficient financial and moral support to expand their ranks by the end of the decade, drawing many young men interested in but not necessarily adept in Kabbalah. Meanwhile, rabbinic responses varied according to locale, age, and proximity to Luzzatto: rabbis in Mantua and Reggio celebrated Luzzatto and strengthened ties to Padua; rabbis in Venice, spurred on and supported by rabbis in central and eastern Europe, condemned the group and attempted to assert control; whereas others, in Italy and possibly in Amsterdam, advocated restraint (Samson Morpurgo) or expressed skepticism (Joseph Ergas). This paper will explore Luzzatto’s relationship to Sabbatianism, including the complexity of voices reacting to his claims, his own assessment of the movement, and his conception of evil. It will discuss ethnic, geographic, and generational factors, and present Luzzatto’s mystical messianism within his eighteenth-century pietistic context. For instance, Luzzatto’s understanding of evil, in his mind a tool of divine providence, caused him to alternately reject and accept opposition, eventually evolving from messianist to quietist, and from purveyor of Kabbalah to author of mainstream treatises. More generally, the broad spectrum of rabbinic voices indicates a need to reassess conceptions of the rabbinate, both within the Italian Peninsula and throughout Europe.

David Sclar is Research Fellow at the Center for Jewish Studies, Harvard University.


Claude Stuczynski, Conversion of Jews in Catholic Millenarian Thought

The paper will analyze the role of Jewish conversion to Christianity among Seventeenth century Catholic-Millenarian thinkers, such as Tomasso Campanella and Father Antonio Vieira, especially in matters related to the validity of the mosaic law and the influence Jewish ethnicity. By adressing a typological portrait of these Catholic messianic views the case of Sebbatianism will merge in relation with analogous western ways of perceiving the Eschaton beyond a specific Marrano-Iberian influence.

Claude Stuczynski is Associate Professor at the Department of General History and American Studies, Bar-Ilan University. His two main fields of research are the Converso phenomenon – mainly in Portugal- and Early Modern encounters between Europeans and non Europeans- mainly Amerindians.


José Alberto Rodrigues da Silva Tavim, António Garcia Soldani‘s Anti-Sabbatean Pamphlet (1663): A Converted Livornese Jew Traces the Failure of the Jewish Messiah 

António Garcia Soldão or Soldani was a Jew of Portuguese origin born in Livorno and converted to Catholicism in 1663. We presume that his small booklet intitled Abreviado, y Devoto Assvmpto Catolico…, which contains the small treatise Vna pequeña, curiosa, y verdadeira Historia del falso Messias de los Judios, que sucediò en la Turquia el año de 1666 y el mal fin que despues tuvo, was not used by Gersom Scholem in his great work on Sabbatai Zvi, presumably due to the poor quality of this text, from the point of view of the narrative itself,  and also because its arguments are not convincing. Nevertheless, it is this little achieved articulation between the ‘Small and Devout Catholic Subject’ and the judgment on the defeat of the ‘Messiah of the Jews’, which is important to us as a way to understand the social and religious behaviour of the Jews descending fromIberian convertswho adopted a Catholic identity in this period. We know that Soldani dedicated this booklet to the ‘Most Powerful Catholic Monarch Charles II of Spain’, and also, through other documents, that he tried unsuccessfully to  make a career in this country. The paper aims, through his example, to know how Soldani constructed his History on Sabbatai Zvi in a convincing way (to him) – though he was not an eye-witness of the events he narrates – ; but also reflecting the social and political ‘choice’ made by some Jews after the ‘fall’ of Shabbatai Zvi’s prestige, voicing their Iberian origin.

José Alberto Rodrigues da Silva Tavim is Senior Researcher and Professor at the Centro de História, Faculdade de Letras, Universidade de Lisboa as well as Collaborator Member at the Research Center CIDEHUS, Évora University, Portugal.


Roni Weinstein, The Sabbatean Movement: An Ottoman Perspective

Most of recent and previous research on the messianic movement of Sabbetai Zvi was focusing either on theological-religious aspects (mainly the Kabbalistic background) or its wide geographical repercussions. The paper intends to underline the role that early modern Ottoman political history and religious currents have played in the construction and giving sense to this particularly Jewish event, its attractive command, the activity of its central figures, and the way it responded to current challenges. To large extent, the main event in the life of Sabbetai Zvi until his conversion to Islam, as they were followed in the fundamental work of Gershom Scholem, took place within the eastern Mediterranean basin, under Ottoman rule for almost a century and a half. The author shall substantiate this assertion in providing a new reading on some of substantial elements in the life and acts of Sabbetai Zvi, such as: the secret of his personal knowledge of God (‘My God’ as he phrased it); Allocation of political-spiritual control over various countries to his major followers; Antinomian acts (Ma’asim Zarimin Hebrew) during moments of spiritual exhilaration, attracting both admiration and dire criticism from his surrounding; Dancing with the Torah Scroll and singing love songs to a seemingly material object. At the back of this assertion would stand the glorious years of the Ottoman Empire, the important role and contribution of various Sufi orders to establishing the Empire, and the religious fervent common to both to Islamicate and European traditions. In this sense it shall suggest a global reading of the Sabbatian movement. 

Roni Weinstein (Department of Jewish History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem) for many years focused on the history of Italian Jewish during late Renaissance and early modern period. More recently he has been conducting research on Jewish religious history in the Mediterranean basin. His current theme is the codification project of R. Joseph Karo, and History of Halakhah.